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Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy
Vision Articles

How Men Nearest the Prophet Attached Polygamy to His Name
in Order to Justify Their Own Polygamous Crimes

By Richard and Pamela Price

"What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives,
when I can only find one"
—Joseph Smith (LDS History of the Church 6:411).

[ Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy Index ]

The Charges That Hyrum Taught Polygamy in Secrecy Are False

Joseph and Emma Smith

The purpose of this chapter is to show the fallacy behind the marring of Hyrum's character in order to make him the avenue through which polygamy came into the Church, and to show what Hyrum did publicly to fight polygamy during the last six months of his life. The truth is in direct conflict with the fallacious secret acts that the writers for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaim that he did. Hyrum has been wrongly accused of having a major role in introducing polygamy into the Church, just as his brother, Joseph, was accused of promoting that doctrine. The Latter-day Saints, with headquarters in Salt Lake City, have ignored Hyrum's public fight against polygamy, and instead have published one side of the issue— the testimonies and affidavits of polygamous men and women who have incorrectly labeled him a strong advocate of polygamy. Their affidavits and testimonies have been published again and again without any references to the opposition which he showed to that doctrine. Therefore, let his actions during the last six months that he lived be reviewed.

Reliable statements by Hyrum against plural marriage should be accepted as truth instead of the testimonies by others, including Brigham Young and William Clayton. If Hyrum had married plural wives, would not those wives have given birth to children? There are no children!

The question is, "Did Hyrum tell the truth when he vehemently condemned polygamy, or did the witnesses who swore that he practiced polygamy tell the truth?" Either Hyrum lied and bore false witness, or those who swore that he was involved in polygamy bore false witness.

Hyrum Called to Be a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator

In 1841 Joseph the Prophet received a revelation in which the Lord called Hyrum to also be a prophet, seer, and revelator. Hyrum accepted the revelation as being of the Lord, and was ordained. The revelation in which he was called stated:

and from this time forth, I appoint unto him (Hyrum] that he may be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph, that he may act in concert also with my servant Joseph, and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph.... that my servant Hyrum may bear record of the things which I shall show unto him, that his name may be had in honorable remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever. (RLDS Doctrine and Covenants 107:29d, f; LDS Doctrine and Covenants 124:94, 96)

If Hyrum was a righteous prophet, he did not lie and go about Nauvoo secretly teaching an alleged time and eternity plural marriage revelation that contradicted and conflicted with the existing commandments already given by the Lord in the Book of Mormon, the Holy Scriptures, and the Doctrine and Covenants. Yet, that is what the church in Utah would have people believe that Hyrum did. The Utah polygamists have woven a false narrative in which they have accused Joseph and Hyrum of teaching and practicing plural marriage in secret, which is in direct opposition to what both men did. Their historians' secrecy version is also in direct conflict with the scripture which asserts:

And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:32–33)

Joseph and Hyrum were subject to the laws and commandments given by the prophets of old, just as all people are.

The Polygamists of Utah Cultivated the Secrecy Theory

Among the testimonies collected by Joseph F. Smith, as evidence that Joseph and Hyrum introduced polygamy into the Church, is a testimony by Bishop S. A. Woolley. Woolley claimed to have received a divine experience in which he was shown a vision of Hyrum secretly teaching the plural marriage document (Section 132 in the LDS Doctrine and Covenants) in Woolley's home at Nauvoo. Woolley alleged that he was shown Hyrum reading the alleged revelation in a secret setting, so secret that window blinds were pulled and shutters were closed at two o'clock in the afternoon. Such secret teachings by Hyrum, one of God's prophets, are in direct opposition to the scripture which declares:

I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth. (Isaiah 45:19)

Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I; and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me. (ibid., 48:16)

Joseph F. Smith had so much faith in Bishop Woolley's testimony that it was published by Historian Andrew Jenson to convince individuals that the Lord had shown Bishop Woolley that Hyrum secretly taught the alleged plural marriage revelation at Nauvoo in September 1843. A major part of Woolley's testimony is given below in order for the readers to see how secretive and deceptive Hyrum is depicted by Mormon historians. The true accounts of Hyrum's fight against polygamy will also be given in order for the reader to discern the truth. Andrew Jenson published:

Bishop S. A. Woolley's Testimony.

"In September, 1843, at Nauvoo, Ill., I was taken very sick, so much so that most of my folks thought I could not recover. During the time of my illness the Prophet Joseph and Patriarch Hyrum Smith came and administered to me frequently. Father Joseph Smith, in a blessing previously given me, had made me a certain promise in regard to living, in which I had the most implicit confidence; and when I heard friends say (although so far gone that I did not recognize any one) that I would never get well, I would whisper 'Yes, I will. Father Smith promised that I should live to see the coming of the Son of Man.' Brother Hyrum said, because of my faith in that blessing, I would not die at that time. The house, in which we lived, was a two-story one, and on the east side was built a store, from which a door opened into the sitting room. During my sickness I occupied one of the up-stair rooms.

One afternoon in the month of October, A. D. 1843,1 think on a Tuesday, about 2 o'clock (I cannot explain just how I knew it was 2 o'clock, but I knew it), I found myself in the sitting room down stairs, and walking to the door leading into the store, I saw my brother Edwin D. putting up the shutters of the store as though it was night. I turned around, saw Mary, his wife, putting down the blinds of the windows in the sitting room. I stood and looked and wondered what was to be done. I saw two or three other persons there; and presently some others, including Patriarch Hyrum Smith, came in. The fireplace was in the north end of the room, and Hyrum sat down at the east end of the grate with his face turned to the northwest. Presently I saw him take a paper out of his coat pocket, and I walked up to his left hand side, looked over his shoulder, and, as he opened the paper, I read 'A Revelation on Eternal Marriage and Plurality of Wives,' etc. He then commenced to read what is now known as the revelation on plural marriage. I also read it myself as fast as he did. He stopped and explained as he went along. There was a sister present by the name of German, who, when he had read to a certain point, went to the southwest window, raised the curtain, looked out, then turned around and said, 'Brother Hyrum, don't read any more, I am full up to here,' drawing her hand across her throat. It was there told me by the same power that informed me it was 2 o'clock, that that revelation was of God, and that no man could or would receive a fulness of celestial glory and eternal life, except he obeyed that law, and had more than one living wife at the same time. From this time I commenced to get well, and did so very speedily. In the course of a few days I was down in the sitting room, and one day, as we sat by the fire, my sister-in-law (Mary) and Sister German, who boarded there, were ta[l|king about that principle allegorically. I remarked, 'Mary, thee need not be afraid to talk right out about that principle, for I know more about it than thee does.' 'What principle?' said she. 'Why, that principle about a man having more wives than one,' I replied. She looked with amazement and said, 'What does thee mean?' (We were raised Quakers.) 'I mean,' said I, 'that I stood right there (pointing to the place) when Brother Hyrum read that revelation the other day.' 'What revelation?' said she (seeming very incredulous). 'Why, the one on plural marriage,' I answered. My brother Edwin D. testified in a public meeting in Manti, Sanpete Co., a number of years ago, that the revelation was read by Bro. Hyrum just as I said, but he (Edwin D.) did not see me there, and he could not relate it as accurately as I have done. Were I to go back on every other principle of what the world call 'Mormonism,' I would have to acknowledge that the principle of plural marriage is of God. I, like Paul of old, whether in the body or out, saw and heard things which were unlawful to utter at that time, for I understood that I was not to tell anyone, or to talk to anyone about it, except those who already knew about it." (Andrew Jenson, The Historical Record 6 [Salt Lake City, Utah, May 1887]: 231–232)

Woolley's testimony was published as evidence that Hyrum was secretly teaching plural marriage to the Woolley family in Nauvoo in September 1843. Woolley states that what transpired in his vision actually occurred. His description of the drawing of window blinds and the closing of shutters on the family's home and store at two o'clock in the afternoon is curious to say the least. Such strange actions would certainly have drawn attention to something unusual going on, and would have brought inquiries from curious neighbors and store customers in the crowded city of Nauvoo. The very sight of the shuttered store in the middle of the afternoon would have caused Saints to come from all directions to check on the health and welfare of the family.

In considering Mr. Woolley's experience as he described it, it should be remembered that the Prophet Joseph warned the Saints against accepting all revealments as coming from God. Joseph the Prophet warned that Satan has the power to deceive by changing himself into a shining angel of light, and has the power to give untrue messages and revelations which conflict with the God-given laws in the Scriptures. Joseph's warnings against false messages and revelations are found in a lengthy article by him entitled "Try the Spirits" that was printed in the Times and Seasons, volume three, April 1, 1842, pages 743–748. Joseph gave an example of a satanic angel who gave a false message to a sister in the Church. The message from an evil source contradicted a true revelation that had been given to her husband earlier. The alleged revelation that Bishop Woolley testified of is contrary to the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the Doctrine and Covenants, and should be examined by using the rules laid out by Joseph the Martyr, who explained:

A sister in the State of New York had a vision.... Many true things were spoken by this personage [an evil angel] and many things that were false.—How it may be asked was this known to be a bad angel? ... by his contradicting a former revelation. (Times and Seasons 3 [April 1, 1842]: 747)

In view of Joseph's explanation that messages from "bad angels" contradict previous God-given messages, Hyrum's testimonies against polygamy are found to agree with the Scriptures. They, therefore, should be accepted as truth in preference to those of Bishop Woolley, Brigham Young, William Clayton, and all others who have testified that Hyrum was secretly practicing and teaching polygamy.

A Review of Hyrum's Stand against Polygamy During the Last Six Months of His Life

It shall be shown in the next few chapters that from January 1,1844, until his death on June 27, 1844, Hyrum Smith never wavered in his fight against polygamy. It is amazing that the writers of Mormon history assert that Hyrum promoted polygamy after July 12, 1843, in spite of the recorded facts that he fought that doctrine publicly, and he gave every indication of being honest and forthright in his battle. Some of his statements against polygamy are printed below, as well as reports by others of his anti-polygamy battle. Hyrum, as a member of the First Presidency, acted as a watchman and spokesperson in directing the priesthood in their special role of bringing charges against those who were guilty of practicing and teaching polygamy.

Elder Hiram P. Brown Cut Off from Church for Teaching Polygamy

Joseph and Hyrum started the year 1844 fighting polygamy. By February 1, 1844, they had cut off Elder Hiram Brown from the Church for, among other things, "preaching Polygamy." They published the following announcement to the Saints:

NOTICE.

As we have lately been credibly informed, that an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-day Saints, by the name of Hiram Brown, has been preaching Polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan. This is to notify him and the Church in general, that he has been cut off from the church, for his iniquity; and he is further notified to appear at the Special Conference, on the 6th of April next, to make answer to these charges.

JOSEPH SMITH,
HYRUM SMITH,
Presidents of said Church.
(Times and Seasons 5 [February 1, 1844]: 423)

Hyrum Sent a Letter Condemning Polygamy to Brethren on China Creek

Richard Hewitt, who lived about ten miles south of Nauvoo, rode his horse to Nauvoo to meet with Joseph Smith. Since Joseph was in a meeting, Hyrum met with Hewitt and heard him report that some elders were preaching polygamy, and were declaring that it was being taught at Nauvoo. Hyrum immediately wrote a letter in which he denied that polygamy was being taught at Nauvoo, and threatened to bring anyone that he found teaching it before the High Council, take their ministerial license from them, and cut them off from the Church. Hyrum wrote:

Nauvoo, March 15,1844.

To the brethren of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, living on China Creek, in Hancock County, Greeting:—Whereas brother Richard Hewitt has called on me today, to know my views concerning some doctrines that are preached in your place, and states to me that some of your elders say, that a man having a certain priesthood, may have as many wives as he pleases, and that doctrine is taught here [at Nauvoo]: I say unto you that that man teaches false doctrine, for there is no such doctrine taught here; neither is there any such thing practised here. And any man that is found teaching privately or publicly any such doctrine, is culpable, and will stand a chance to be brought before the High Council, and lose his license and membership also: therefore he had better beware what he is about.... And as to the celestial glory, all will enter in and possess that kingdom that obey the gospel, and continue in faith in the Lord unto the end of his days....

I am
Your obedient servant,
HYRUM SMITH.
(Times and Seasons 5 [March 15, 1844]: 474)

Hyrum Cautioned Saints at Conference Not to Believe "all the lies"

The biggest question on the minds of many who attended the April 1844 Church Conference, was the question of whether or not there was any truth to the rumors that Joseph and Hyrum and other Church leaders were practicing polygamy. Hyrum was no doubt making reference to those rumors when he told the Saints, while preaching at Conference:

A certain good sister came to my house and she was troubled because she heard so many big things; she thought it weakened her faith. I told her she had too much faith; she believed too much; I will tell you how you may know whether the thing is true or not. When any come to you with a lie, you feel troubled; God will trouble you and will not approbate you in such belief; you had better get some antidote to get rid of it. Humble yourself before God, and ask him for his spirit; and pray to him to judge it for you. It is better not to have so much faith, than to have so much as to believe all the lies. Before this conference closes I want to get all the elders together. I shall make a proclamation: I want to take the line and axe, and hew you, and make you as straight as possible; I will make you as straight as a stretched line. Every elder that goes from Nauvoo to preach the gospel, if he preach any thing else we will silence him through the public print; I want all the elders to meet and to understand, and if they teach any thing but the pure truth we will call them home. (Times and Seasons 5 [August 1, 1844]: 598)

Many of the Saints at that Conference were like the lady that Hyrum referred to. They believed too much. They believed the "big things," the false rumors that Joseph and Hyrum were secretly practicing polygamy. Many of the Saints had knowledge that members of the Twelve had plural wives, and that made it easier for them to believe the false rumors that Joseph and Hyrum also had plural wives. They chose to ignore Joseph and Hyrum's testimonies of innocence.

The above account of Hyrum's Conference sermon taken from Times and Seasons, August 1,1844, was published over a month after Hyrum's death. Naturally, there was no reference to Hyrum being opposed to polygamy. After all, Hyrum was dead, and Editor John Taylor, and other members of the Twelve Apostles who were living in polygamy, would not have wanted the Saints to know that Hyrum had opposed plural marriage so vehemently. With Joseph and Hyrum no longer alive to condemn its practice, polygamy escalated at Nauvoo.

Elder Levi Graybill's Testimony

Elder Levi Graybill, who joined the Church in 1833, and was with the Saints at Kirtland, Ohio; Independence and Far West, Missouri; and at Nauvoo testified that he heard President Hyrum Smith speak against polygamy at the April 1844 Church Conference. Elder Graybill wrote:

I was present at the April conference in Nauvoo in 1844....

I was well acquainted with Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and most all of the early leaders of the church.... At the conference of April, 1844, Hyrum Smith said from the stand that some had been teaching spiritual wifery, which meant polygamy, and addressing the sisters he said: "If any man makes such a proposition to you, if you will put a dagger to his heart I will plead your cause in the day of judgment." (Journal of History 4 [January 1911]: 108)

Thomas A. Lyne, a Witness to Hyrum's Anti-Polygamy Meeting

In 1885 President Joseph Smith III went to Utah, and there met Thomas A. Lyne, an actor and a member of the Church, whom Joseph III had known at Nauvoo before and after his father's death. Lyne shared some very important information with Joseph III of what he had witnessed at Nauvoo just prior to the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum. Joseph III recorded the following in his memoirs:

There was at Nauvoo for some two to four years during the lifetime of my father, an actor by the name of Thomas A. Lyne. He came from the East, united with the church, and was one of a dramatic company formed in Nauvoo....

I was very well acquainted with Thomas Lyne and entertained for him a very cordial friendship which I have reason to believe he reciprocated. I had not seen him since 1847 and had understood that he had gone East to engage in his profession. I was not aware that he was in Utah until on the 29th of June I met him on the street in Salt Lake City. We exchanged a few brief greetings, and made appointment for a later visit, at which time he came to see me, and we had a long and pleasing interview. I learned considerable of his history some of which I had not known before. Among the items of information he volunteered, the following was interesting to me.

He was among the group of brethren who started to escort my father, Uncle Hyrum, and others to the county seat when they were summoned in arrest to answer for the destruction of the printing plant of the Nauvoo Expositor. He proceeded five or six miles upon the road to Carthage, when a halt was called and a division of the party ensued. Father had decided it was unnecessary for so many to go with them, and Lyne was one of those requested to return to Nauvoo. To this he strenuously objected, but his objections were overruled by Father, who beckoned him to one side and told him to return and to be especially wary, wise, and watchful, adding:

"Most probably I shall not return. I want you to live, so that you may help to correct the illusions, misunderstandings, and misstatements that will follow after my death—if I die. You will live to pass through many scenes of difficulty and danger, and you will also bear a strong testimony to the truth."

Upon hearing this charge from Father, he consented to return. He made up his mind to keep quiet, to have little to do with the stirring events of the time, and to faithfully carry out the instructions and charge given him by Father concerning misstatements which would be made about him.

Mr. Lyne went East first for the practice of his profession, but finally drifted to Utah where for a number of years he had been engaged in theatrical affairs. He refrained from participation in the practice of polygamy and did not uphold it as a doctrine. Among other things he told me was that three weeks before the tragedy at Carthage he had attended a meeting in Seventy's Hall, ostensibly for high priests and elders. At this meeting Uncle Hyrum was a principal speaker and there strongly denounced the theory of polygamy, or plural marriage, and its practice, stating specifically and emphatically that such a doctrine was no part or parcel of the message they had been called to preach to the world, and he earnestly warned them against it.

This disclosure on the part of Thomas Lyne considerably surprised me, and I asked him to put it in writing or to make, in the presence of others, a restatement of that which he had given me. I told him I wished it as an aid to set my mind at rest, that his testimony could be added to that of others, since he had freely stated that he knew nothing of polygamy or plural wifery being practiced in Nauvoo before Father's death, and that what he had seen or heard of it had occurred thereafter.

We parted with the understanding on my part that he would consider the matter of this written statement and, if he found he could do so consistently, would comply with my request. I received a note from him some weeks later, stating that he had been taken ill after his visit with me, that he did not expect to live much longer, and felt that the statement I desired him to give would be of little value to me since he had been of no particular importance to the Mormon Church, was known only as an actor, and few would likely be influenced by his testimony in the matter.

He was well past his eightieth birthday at the time, he said, and would soon be called "over the river," and preferred not to get into any further trouble or arouse any fresh antagonisms. He had for a long time been fighting against untoward conditions, though doing all that lay in his power to defend the memory of my father from the unjust charges that had been made against him. He disclaimed all knowledge of there having been anything like polygamy or plural marriage in Nauvoo prior to my father's death, or of anything that could connect my father with the doctrines or institution, either in teaching or practice. He stated plainly that from his intimate acquaintance with my father's family there could have been nothing of the kind in existence without his having knowledge of it at the time.

It was not long after my last visit with Mr. Lyne that he passed on to the "Great Majority." He had been very unfairly used by the Mormons, advantage having been taken of him a number of times; but he persisted in staying with them in order, as he said, to do what he could to refute the unjust and untrue aspersions which had been placed upon the character and memory of his friend, Joseph Smith the Prophet. (Mary Audentia Smith Anderson, The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith III (1832–1914) [Independence, Missouri: Price Publishing Company, 2001], 224–225)

Teacher John Taylor Confirmed Thomas A. Lyne's Testimony

While visiting later in Salt Lake City, Joseph III met and conversed with John Taylor, who had held the office of teacher in the Church at Nauvoo. This is the same John Taylor who testified as a witness for the Reorganized Church in the Temple Lot Case. Taylor testified to Joseph III that he was present at a meeting against polygamy at the Seventy's Hall at Nauvoo. According to Taylor, he attended meetings at both the Seventy's Hall and the Masonic Hall, and in both instances Hyrum was the principle speaker and spoke against polygamy. Joseph III recalled:

The statements of Thomas Lyne were called forcibly to mind during a subsequent visit to Utah when I became acquainted with Brother John Taylor, who corroborated what Mr. Lyne said about the meeting in the Seventy's Hall. Though at that time only a teacher, he (Taylor, though not to be confused with the John Taylor who was once President of the Utah Church) gained admission to that meeting by accompanying a neighbor, a high priest, who vouched for him at the door by saying, "Brother Taylor is with me, and he is all right." Brother Taylor's recollection tallies exactly with that of Thomas Lyne as to the time when the meeting was held, the reason for its being held, and the denial and denunciation of the dogma of plural marriage there made by Uncle Hyrum.

Brother Taylor lived at a place west of Ogden.... He had become strongly obnoxious to the polygamous portion of the Utah people for whenever occasion permitted he vigorously and vehemently denounced their doctrines and practices in unmeasured and scathing terms.... This John Taylor was a young man when the Saints under Father and Uncle Hyrum were camped near his father's farm on Fishing River, in Missouri. That was the time when cholera attacked the immigrants and they were in such dire straits. By a personal appeal to him Father secured the services of this young man to help care for the sick.... He finally became a member before the church left Missouri.

This additional testimony of Uncle John Taylor, stated to me some four years after my interview with Thomas Lyne and fully corroborating the testimony of the latter in regard to Uncle Hyrum's attitude, strongly confirmed me in the position I had taken in declaring that my father had had no connection with plural marriage, (ibid., 225)

President of the Teachers' Quorum Ordered to Report Polygamists to Hyrum

Teacher John Taylor testified in the famous Temple Lot Case as a witness for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Taylor had joined the Church in 1832, was with the Church in Independence and Far West, Missouri, and at Nauvoo. He went to Utah, and when RLDS missionaries went to Salt Lake City he joined the Reorganized Church. Taylor testified under oath in the Temple Lot Case that he and other teachers were told that if they discovered polygamy being practiced at Nauvoo that they were to report their findings to the presidents of the Teachers' Quorums, who were directed to report the facts to Hyrum Smith. Taylor declared under oath:

I was at Far West, in Caldwell county, at the time the church was there. I went from there to Illinois, and I next went to Nauvoo. It was about 1840 if I recollect right. I held the position of teacher in the original church from September, 1832, until Joseph Smith's death in 1844. I performed the duties of teacher from the time I went to Nauvoo until 1844....

It was our duty in case we found anybody with more wives than one to report them to the President of the Teachers' Quorum. There were twenty-four in the Teachers' Quorum. It was an organized quorum, and our instructions were if we found any case of that kind to report it to the President of the Teachers' Quorum, and the president would report them to Hyrum Smith. That was the instruction that Brother Hyrum Smith gave in the quorum....

Now I don't mean to say that there was any such thing as polygamy at that time taught or being practiced for that matter, but it was about that time that John C. Bennett's secret wife system came to be heard of... and that was the reason that the instructions were given us, for [we] were told to search it out and find what there was to it if we could.... so I got after him, and followed him.... I followed him to the house there in Nauvoo where this secret wife business was practiced.... During the time that I was a teacher from 1832 up to 1844, there was no rule or law of the original church that permitted the practice or principle of polygamy. There was no such a law, I am sure....

Yes sir, after I reported John C. Bennett there was action taken on his case. He was cut off from the church for that offense.... Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith never taught polygamy, and there was no revelation on polygamy or celestial marriage, or anything of the kind. The church was governed entirely as a monogamy church from 1832, at the time I became connected with it, up to the time of Joseph Smith's death.

There was a man by the name of [Hiram] Brown that taught that doctrine. He was notified by the church authorities, tried, and cut off from the church.... There was another man by the name of Durfy who went to La Harpe, Illinois, and he told the people that he thought the time would come when they would practice polygamy, or the same doctrine with reference to plural wives that David and Solomon did. That was what Durfy taught. That was reported to Hyrum Smith, and Hyrum Smith sat on a well curb and wrote a notice to him that such a doctrine was not to be taught in the church. I saw that letter, and it was a severe rebuke....

The letter I referred to ... is a letter that Hyrum Smith wrote and delivered to Mr. Hewitt, to take to those brethren out where this man was preaching this doctrine, or telling the people that the doctrine of plural marriage would sometime be taught in the church. I saw the letter at the time it was read to me. I saw the handwriting, but I did not read it myself.... Mr. Hewitt read it to me, and I saw the writing, the same as if you had a letter opened there and I should see it. I saw the writing when Mr. Hewitt was reading it to me. The full name of the man who read it was Richard Hewitt.... Mr. Hewitt said it was Hyrum Smith's handwriting. He told me that Hyrum Smith wrote it and gave it to him. (Complainant's Abstract of Pleading and Evidence, in the Circuit Court of the United States, Western District of Missouri, Western Division, at Kansas City: The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Complainant, vs. The Church of Christ at Independence, Missouri.... Respondents. [Lamoni, Iowa: Herald Publishing House and Bindery, 1893]: 190–191,192–193)

Fortunately, Hyrum made a copy of the letter which he gave to Richard Hewitt and had it published in the Times and Seasons for March 15,1844, and that important document is available for study today.

Doctor Josiah Ells' Dying Testimony

The testimony of Doctor Josiah Ells is very important, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has officially alleged that Dr. Ells' sister, Hannah Ells, was one of Joseph's plural wives. Joseph, of course, denied he had plural wives, and Hannah Ells never claimed to be Joseph's wife. Doctor Ells was one of the Prophet's trusted friends, and was one of those men who accompanied Joseph and Hyrum to Carthage to surrender to civil authorities. On the way to Carthage, Doctor Ells heard a conversation between Joseph and Hyrum that made a great impression upon him. The home of Dr. Ells and his wife, Eliza, was very close to the Mansion House, and according to Josiah the two couples visited frequently in one another's homes. Andrew Jenson of the LDS Church published that Josiah's sister, Hannah Ells (who may have lived with Josiah and Eliza), was one of Joseph's plural wives (see Andrew Jenson, The Historical Record 6 [Salt Lake City, Utah, May 1887]: 234). Doctor Ells' dying testimony was that Joseph Smith was not a polygamist, and that those who said he had plural wives were not telling the truth. Dr. Ells died at the home of RLDS Apostle Gomer T. Griffiths. Apostle Griffiths wrote of Dr. Ells' deathbed testimony:

Brother Ells was ordained an [RLDS] apostle in April, 1865, at Piano, Illinois, and he continued in said office for over twenty years. He prosecuted many important missions, went to England, was sent to the Utah Mission, and traveled in all the Eastern States, as well as the Central and many of the Western States.

During his last sickness Brother Ells told me that his family were next-door neighbors of Joseph the Prophet, and that they were very intimate with each other, visiting back and forth almost every day among the families, and he himself was closely associated with the Seer in church affairs. "He [Joseph] came into my house very often, and I visited him in his house. Therefore, do you suppose if he taught and practiced polygamy that my family and I would not have discovered it?" said Brother Ells. He told me time and again that there was not a word of truth in the statement made by the Utah people that Joseph Smith was the author of polygamy and that Emma Smith knew it to be a fact.

Brother Ells was one of the brethren who accompanied the party consisting of the Seer, his brother Hyrum, and a few others, to Carthage. The heat being intense, the party stopped at a well by the roadside for a cool drink of water. On his deathbed, he told me of the following conversation between the Prophet and his brother. The Seer said, "We must go and lay our heads on the sod, or they will go into the city and murder the women and children," adding that it would not be necessary for his brother Hyrum to die and for him to return to the city. But Hyrum answered him, "But I must die, for the mob will not be satisfied until they shed my blood. Brother Joseph, if you die I will die, too. I am going with you, and if they kill you they will have to kill me." Brother Ells returned to the city [of Nauvoo] that same day and it was the last time he saw the two brothers alive, whom he loved so dearly. (The Saints 'Herald [August 2, 1921], 738–739)

Summary

The contrast is wide between the Church's published 1844 accounts of Hyrum's brave, fearless fight against polygamy, and the Mormon historical records which tell of Hyrum's alleged secrecy in practicing and teaching polygamy. LDS records portray Hyrum as a weak, secretive, and cowardly man. Fortunately, valuable documents still exist in the files of the Times and Seasons, the Nauvoo Neighbor, and other sources that establish the fact that Hyrum was engaged publicly in fighting polygamy as long as he lived. His testimonies under oath in two separate court cases, one in May 1844 and another in June 1844, will be published in future chapters of "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy." Those documents will furnish further evidence that Hyrum was fearless as he testified publicly under oath in the last few weeks of his earthly life. The records bear out the fact that polygamy did not enter the Church by way of a plural marriage revelation through Joseph and Hyrum, but by the baptism of members of the polygamous Cochranite sect, and the acceptance of their plural doctrines by the majority of the members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

 

[ Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy Index ]

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Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy—Volume I, by Richard and Pamela Price, can be purchased at the Restoration Bookstore or from our online store.  Articles on this subject continue to be published in Vision magazine, which also can be purchased at the Restoration Bookstore or online. It is planned that this additional material will be compiled into future volumes.

For a general understanding of both the origins of polygamy among the Latter Day Saints and the several conspiracies to falsely implicate Joseph in polygamy, read the article on our Web site, "Joseph Smith: Innocent of Polygamy," by Richard Price.

 
 

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